A Lyke Wake Dirge

gravestones graveyard

Image : Pixabay

Well, I find this misty morning here in Bristol, my brain still dwells in the land of the dead, wallowing in a nether world of apparitions and ghosts, spirits wreathed about my head, tugging at my hair and whispering of times past.

All this being said, I felt the need to share this piece of music,

A Lyke Wake Dirge.

It’s old. Proper old. First written down in the late seventeenth century, it could be as much as 700 years old, passed through oral tradition in North Yorkshire.

It would have been sung during a wake (a watching over of the dead before burial), lyke being a dialect word for corpse. So, singing a dirge whilst watching over a corpse.

It’s a moral Christian tale of the soul’s journey through the Other World, though there’s little about redemption or Heaven here. It’s more about the dead receiving their just desserts for the sins they commited while alive.

If ever you gave hose and shoes,
Every night and all,
Sit then down and put them on;
And Christ receive your soul.But if hose and shoes you gave none
Every night and all,
The thorns shall prick you to the bare bone;
And Christ receive your soul.

The below version is sung in English, (for instance they sing ‘This one night’, where the original lyrics are ‘This ae nighte’, the original giving a real feel of Norse influence on the language).

See here for other recordings, including an a capella version and here for further analysis of the poetry.

Enough history, lets have a listen.

Though I warn you, since hearing it on the soundtrack of the BBC supernatural drama The Living and the Dead, it’s become the most persistent of earworms for me – every nighte and alle.





If music be the fuel of fear, play on: Tunes of terror, songs to scare

Want to come out to play? Image: Pixabay

Want to come out to play?
Image: Pixabay

Ah, music. There’s not a lot can convey and channel emotion like a tune. Whether you’re hearts achey-breaking and you need a good old weep, or you’re in the mood to shake you’re booty and crave a tune you can throw some shapes to, listening to music can be the catharsis you need.

But put aside your sparkly boob tubes and your glittery platform heels. And stop your sobbing, you big Jessie, cos today we don’t want to be cheered up and the only tears I want to see are tears of sheer terror.

Today I’m gonna share with you my top creepy chords, horns of horror and songs of Satan.

Now, being an old Goth, this task has proved all the easier by the fact I’ve spent years listening to bands whose intention was creep me out.

So, first up, housewive’s favourite The Cure with Lullaby.

Now, I confess it’s the video that freaks me out as much as the song. Okay, the lyrics are pretty creepy – it all seems to be about being eaten – but Rob Smith trapped in bed, with a DARK version of his pyjama-clad self crawling around the ceiling? Horrific.

Now for a proper bit of full-on, non-commercial Goth-ness. The Fields of the Nephilim’s Psychonaut.

I don’t think these guys ever troubled the charts. They never cropped up on Top of the Pops – front men who look like a cross between a Spaghetti Western anti-hero and Brad Pitt’s Louis from Interview with the Vampire wouldn’t have rubbed along well in the party-fuelled, brainless atmosphere of late eighties / early nineties TOTP.

Want to know the scariest thing about the Neff?

We knew a Watchman (not a  DC superhero – it’s what the Neff’s hardcore fans called themselves) called Nigel who followed the band around the country, going to every gig. As one of the privileged few, Nige got to know frontman Carl McCoy, one day asking him what the words of the chant in the 12 inch version of Psychonaut meant. You see, Carl wasn’t playing Weekend Goth, he was a follower of Sumerian Gods, a fan of occultist Aleister Crowley …

All of the prayers and chants on Nephilim records are real. So Carl didn’t exactly say ‘if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you’ … But it was close. Dark forces indeed.

Next up, a truly nasty song from Siouxsie and the Banshees – Rawhead and Bloody Bones.

I coud’ve chosen Peek-A-Boo or Happy House or Carouselthe first about voyeurs, the second with its jangly, off key tune, the last a kid’s nightmare about fairground rides – but Rawhead is truly unpleasant. You can probably tell from the title.

Things are hiding – in wells, cupboards, under the stairs. These things have claws – and teeth. And there’s drowning.

Someone put the lights on.

Let’s leave my youth and try a classic – Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens.

You can hear the bones rattle, the scrape of coffin lids as the dead rise. This is what I want played at my funeral. That or maybe Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult – which I’m sure will be a great comfort to my grieving relatives … Or not.

Last and possibly weirdest in a Halloween countdown – The Police, Every Breath You Take.

Yes, I know, it’s a lovely tune and it sounds romantic – oh, he can’t bear to spend a moment away from her, ain’t that grand! However. Listen to the lyrics. Really listen.

He wants to own her. He talks about her oath breaking and fake smiles – he’s watching every move she makes, listening to her breathing.

Does that sound like love – or stalking?*

Yup, Every Breath You Take is the scariest song on the list – by far.

What’s your favourite scary song? Do let me know – I love them.

*If you add Wrapped Around Your Finger, Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You, Don’t Stand So Close to Me … Sting had some real issues around women and relationships.

This is a happy house


When most people meet me they find I’m Friendly, Affable, Smiley, Mumsy (like a group of really tedious dwarves) but my fiction is often Dark, Scary and Violent, the kind of dwarves you don’t want to meet on the walk home from the pub.

I’m a glass-half-full person, carrying a hidden Gothic underbelly.This means I can be totally chilled and positive (Global Warming? Man, the earth will survive. Nuclear annihilation? Nothing a nice hot chocolate and group hug can’t sort) whilst simultaneously being drawn to graveyards, spiders and creaking door hinges.

I’m Mary Poppins wearing Morticia Addams’ undies beneath my frock.

So, when it comes to music, my favourites allow me to dip my toe in sorrow, go ankle deep in heartbreak, and sink up to my neck in melancholy. Sometimes, It’s good to wallow.

First up…

Last beat of my heart, by Siouxsie and the Banshees.      Forget My Way or Wind beneath my Wings, this is the only track so far I’m definitely having played at my funeral.

When I hear it, I’m twenty again, listening to this for the first time. I’m sitting on the floor of a scruffy flat, desperately in love, wrapped in the arms of that love, wishing the four minutes of this song would last for the rest of my life.

From the opening drums to the introduction of an accordion and the off-kilter lyrics, it’s not mainstream. But as a piece of music to accompany my coffin disappearing behind those crematorium curtains, I can think of none better.

Next please…

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Wiiliams.      Let me just say, I am NOT a classical music fan. Generally speaking, you put me in a room with a symphony playing and I’ll feel instantly depressed… and not in a good way.

But this music moves me. That opening sweep of strings can bring me to the verge of tears.

I don’t know if any clever boffin-types have done studies on this, but I definitely think there are notes/ key changes/ chords that have a direct connection to the emotion-triggers in our brains. They’re like magic buttons you can press to make you feel.

Vaughan Williams isn’t considered a world-class composer by many and the ‘hook’ is  from a work of 1567 by another man, Thomas Tallis, but if I want to take the hand of Melancholia and sink beneath the waves of her welcoming sea, I choose this one.

And finally…

Well, it could be Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins, the tiny, perfect pearl that is Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths, Close to Me by The Cure, Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up) by Florence and the Machine…

But I’m gonna go forHappy by Pharrell Williams. I shouldn’t, I know. I like nothing else by Pharrell and he needs a good slap for teaming up with Robin Thicke and making Blurred Lines (no, no link for that one- if you want to listen to that rapey, sexist drivel you can find your own way).

But the sun’s shining and sometimes I need to take off my black lace gloves, expose my pasty white skin to the world and soak up some Vitamin D. And it’s the catchiest song ever- damn it!

Clap along…

This was written for the Writing 101 Day Three challenge. It’s late. Soz.